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35 Awe-Inspiring Sports Stars From Around The World

Published 11 months ago on June 13, 2019
By Hugo

Whether it's shedding a few pounds or simply putting on a bit of juicy, lean muscle, we can all do with a gentle nudge in the right direction when it comes to getting in shape so why not get inspired by these incredible athletes?

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They've proved time and time again that peak physicality leads not only to better performance in their respective fields but also improved mental well-being. Here are 35 incredible athletes from around the world that will inspire you to do great things wherever you are! 

1. Roger Federer 

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Long dubbed the Greatest, Roger Federer is quite simply a phenomenon. Holding the male record for the number of grand slam singles titles (20), the Swiss ace is by far the most popular player on the ATP Tour, not only for his on-court prowess but also for the way he conducts himself off it.

He's a bastion of charitable causes and was one of the leading players to suggest decreasing the prize money for the winner's of prestigious tournaments so it could be redistributed more evenly to the player's who typically crash out in the earlier rounds. He's also got a natural grace about him, and it's for these reasons- among many others- that the Swiss superstar was voted the ATP's Fan Favourite for an unprecedented 17th year running. 

2. Andrew Luck

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When news broke that college superstar Andrew Luck was to be drafted into the NFL, a TMZ hound couldn't believe he was speaking to someone on an age-old flip phone. But that's just the guy Luck is. He isn't your typical baller. He's not ostentatious, and he doesn't care about material possessions. He's just a humble man who possesses an incredible gift for football.

If you walked past him in the street and didn't have a knowledge of football, you wouldn't for one second think that the Indianapolis Colt's QB was the highest paid player in the NFL, but maybe that's what makes this man so great. Despite achieving the dreams of many guys, he's remained true to his values and good-guy personality, and in a league full of obnoxious, boastful athletes, Luck's success is much-welcomed, even if fellow baller Rodney Hudson described his niceness as "weird."

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was more complimentary, describing Luck as the "nicest guy you'd ever meet in your life."

3. Kieran Behan

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Having a benign tumor removed from his leg at the age of just 10 Kieran was told he would never walk again and would be forever wheelchair bound. However, he made an improbable recovery, he sustained a head injury that once again put him in a wheelchair for two years. He went on to train in gymnastics but in 2010 he snapped his right cruciate ligament.

Shortly after returning from rehab, he suffered the same injury in his left knee. Undeterred by these adversities, Kieran is once again competing for Ireland.

4. Sarah Attar

Oiselle

One of only two female athletes that competed for Saudi Arabia in 2012, she finished last in the women's 800m race but received a standing ovation from the crowd. Female competitors for Saudi Arabia must train abroad as they can't do so by law in their home country.

Saudi Arabia had four women competing for them at 2016's Rio Olympics. 

5. Yusra Mardini

instagram.com/ @mardiniysra

Fleeing a war-torn Syria that is currently caught up in a bloody conflict between its president and rebel forces, whilst part of the country is controlled by terrorist organization Isis. At just 17 years old Yusra has seen many great tragedies and managed to flee to neighboring Turkey. In an attempt to get to mainland Greece via boat, the motor cut out and she had to swim the rest of the distance in perilous seas.

Once there she made it to Germany where her swimming ability impressed and she was selected to compete in the 200m freestyle swimming as part of Team Refugees.

6. J.J. Watt

instagram.com/ @jjwatt

After Hurricane Harvey devastated the homes and lives of many people in the city he plies his trade in, the Houston Texans defensive end set up a fundraiser which raised over $37m for victims of the disaster, but to many observers, it wasn't a surprise. 

After all, the star football player has thrown himself into a number of projects outside football for many years, and he's often praised for his sincerity and compassionate personality. 

Like Andrew Luck, J.J. Watt doesn't appear to be interested in the material aspects of his fame, and he's simply determined to be a better person. But if you needed more convincing of this guy's niceness, then we encourage you to click here and watch a video of Watt surprising his elementary school teacher.

7. Manny Pacquiao

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While the Filipino boxer lost a number of endorsements following his controversial views on gay relationships, which he claimed conflicts with his Catholic faith, the boxer is still a consummate professional- at least in the field of boxing.

Unlike his fierce, braggadocious boxing rival Floyd "Money" Mayweather, Pacquiao is known to have donated a large majority of his earnings to charitable causes and is now a senator in his native Philippines.

8. Kevin Durant

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One of the NBA's most prized players, Durant is widely considered one of the world's best basketball players, with his dunking and three-throwing abilities second to none. But as well as possessing exceptional talents that only the likes of Lebron James and Stephen Curry can better, Durant prefers to stay away from the more glamorous side of the game and that's likely because of his strict faith.

A proud Christian, Durant was baptized by Hillsong Church Pastor Carl Lentz in 2013 and credits his faith with keeping him grounded. "When people tell me I’m great, I remind myself that I can always be better. Humility comes before honor,” Durant said.  

9. Andy Murray

Shutterstock/ Leonard Zhukovsky

If the three-time grand slam tennis champion Andy Murray happened to be competing in any other era, he'd likely have won every slam going. Yet with Nadal, Federer- and in more recent years, Novak Djokovic- dominating the men's game, Murray has often found himself playing 4th best, but the fact he's won three slams is still a monumental achievement considering the incredible competition.

Despite his on-court brilliance, he's remained humble throughout his career and has never cared for the glitz and glamour that comes from being a world-class tennis player, so much so that he even returned a bright red Ferrari because he didn't like the attention it attracted. Instead, he traded it in for a practical VW Golf, the same car he learned to drive in.

10. Gianluigi Buffon

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If ever you wanted your child to look up to a professional soccer player, then you'd find it hard to pick a more perfect professional than the seasoned Italian shot-stopper Gigi Buffon. A class act, both on and off the soccer field, the legendary goalie has won almost every trophy in soccer, including the FIFA World Cup, and has also been crowned the world's best goalkeeper at the Best FIFA Football Awards ceremony in London last year.

Asked to speak at the event, the Italian insisted he spoke English rather than let the translator do the work, and he tried hard to hold back the tears as he reflected on his incredible career at Seria A side, Juventus.

11Billie Jean King

Wikipedia

Billie Jean King was a significant pioneer in women's sport ever since the 39-time Grand Slam winner set up and won the infamous 1973 'battle of the sexes' match against the notoriously pugnacious tennis player, Bobby Riggs. Watched by a global television audience of over 100m people, King went on to beat Riggs in straight sets, and many have since viewed the match as a watershed in not only the game of tennis but the whole of women's sport.

By 2007, for instance, grand slam prize money in tennis was the same for both men and women while other sports where female participation is prevalent have strived for similar equality, with many governing boards asking for King's advice on how best they can further the careers of their female stars.

12. Danica Patrick

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If you've heard of any female drivers on our list, the first name that sprung to mind is most likely Danica Patrick, undoubtedly the most famous female racing driver of all time. She's been winning for fun over the years and has made serious inroads in the competitive world of men's racing too- one of the few women to do so.

She is the only woman to win an IndyCar series race following her triumph at the 2008 Indy Japan 300. Then there was her incredible third-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 in 2009- the highest finish ever recorded by a female.

Now competing in the Sprint Cup Series, Patrick has also had the pleasure of driving for many other noted racing teams such as Rahal Letterman and Andretti Autosport.

13. Serena and Venus Williams

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Both of these tennis superstars deserve posts of their own but the Williams name is so synonymous with tennis success that, for ease, we have rolled the two into one. Both sisters have been ranked world No. 1 during their careers and both have finalists at every major grand slam tournament at least once with Serena winning all of them at least once and, during one period, held all four at the same time.

Serena holds the most major singles, doubles, and mixed doubles titles combined amongst active players, male or female and has an incredible 38 major titles to her name in singles tennis alone. Venus has 7 major singles titles and became the World No. 1 for the first time on February 25, 2002, becoming the first black American woman to achieve this feat during the Open Era. 

The sisters play doubles tennis together and have won 14 major grand slams together and the pair is unbeaten in Grand Slam doubles finals. Serena was the highest paid female athlete in 2016 and the pair are considered a global power in world sport and are amongst the greatest tennis players ever, male or female.  

14. Ronda Rousey

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Until recently she was the undefeated star of UFC and a mixed martial arts champion for three straight years. Her domination of the sport has led to unwavering popularity and she has become one of the most celebrated mixed martial artists of all time and used the popularity from that to launch a career in film and television.

Starting out as a judo fighter, and at just 19 became the first female U.S. judoka in nearly 10 years to win an A-Level tournament and the first U.S. athlete ever to win two Junior World medals after winning bronze at the Junior World Championships. In 2008 she qualified for Beijing and went on to become the first American to win an Olympic medal in women's judo since its inception as an Olympic sport in 1992.

15. Katherine Schweitzer

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After Kathrine Switzer's coach had warned her that she was too 'fragile' to run a full-length marathon, Switzer thought better and became the first woman to compete in the Boston Marathon when she defied the all-male criteria. The incident occurred in 1967, a time when women were barred from competing. Race organiser Jock Semple even chased her down once he noticed what Switzer was doing. But it was the heroics of her boyfriend and the other male runners who won over the world with their actions, as they stopped Semple from reaching her.

It wouldn't be until 1972 that women were allowed to compete.

16. Flo Jo

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The late Florence Griffith-Joyner was arguably the female equivalent of Usain Bolt during the 1980s because every time she ran another record as almost guaranteed to be broken.  Also sharing a similar charisma to the Jamaican, Flo Jo, as she was endearingly nicknamed, was also someone who thrived off pressure and the limelight that came with it and famously accepted her 1988 Olympic medals sporting her trademark elongated fingernails. 

Her career reached its peak after the success of her record-breaking exploits at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, in which she won three medals. The victories would come with world records in both the 100m and 200m.  Her times of 10.49 seconds in the 100m and 21.34 in the 200m are yet to be broken. 

17. Mo'ne Davis

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Mo'ne Davis became the first African-American female to play in baseball's Little League Wolrd Series and was also the first girl to pitch a winning game when she pitched an impressive 70-mile-per-hour fastball.

Due to the significance of her achievement, Davis attracted national attention and even landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The magazine identified her as "Sports Kid of the Year" and at only 15-years-old, Mo'ne has already done much to convince girls her age that taking part in sport shouldn't be seen as a bad thing.

18. Becky Hammon

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Becky Hammon enjoyed a successful career in America's premier female basketball league but is more known for being the first full-time assistant coach when The San Antonio Spurs sought her services.

Many have since viewed Hammon's appointment as a precedent for future female employment within men's sport.

19. Diana Nyad

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Swimming long distances isn't for the fainthearted and one person who knows that all too well is Diana Nyad, who became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage. The 2013 achievement, which was 35 years in the making having unsuccessfully tried on five separate occasions, marked another significant moment in women's sport.

As well as Nyad's record, the 63-year-old was praised for her persistence, with hypothermia, violent storms, stinging jellyfish and the likely possibility of being eaten by sharks all getting in her way on the other five occasions. 

20. Molly Huddle

Shutterstock/ Dave Smith 1965

As one of the world's premier marathons, New York City's marathon (and half-marathon) attracts thousands of entrants. In 2016, Olympic long-distance runner Huddle competed in the women's half-marathon. But not only did she show up or even run a respectable time- she won with a time of 1.07.41.

If Molly were seven seconds faster with her finish, she would have broken the female half-marathon American record set by Deena Kastor, who won the 2006 Berlin Half Marathon with a time of 1.07.34

21. Kelly Kulick

Daily Gazette

Many may sniff their noses at the assertion that bowling is a sport, let alone one that is played professionally, but that shouldn't take away the achievements of Kelly Kulick who has dominated in a game mostly seen as the preserve of kids and middle-aged men.

After bowling a remarkable ten straight strikes, Kulick became the first woman to win the male-dominated Pro Bowler's Association Tournament in 2010. As of today, the New Jersey native has added ten professional women's bowling titles to her impressive trophy cabinet. 

22. Nadia Com─âneci

Wikimedia

The last person on this list is someone whose contribution to the female sporting world will forever be remembered.

At only 14, the Romanian gymnast scored a perfect 10 from the judges for her performance on the uneven bars and was the first perfect score in the sports' history. Now 54, the former athlete has twice been presented with the Olympic Order, which aims to reward those for distinguished commitments to the Olympic movement.

23. Lionel Messi

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The magisterial brilliance of the Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi beggars belief. Already a Barcelona legend- where he plays his club football- Messi has been in a league of his own for some time thanks to his God-given talents, but that still hasn't stopped this game-changing athlete from remaining true to himself.

Of course, naysayers will point to Cristiano Ronaldo and say he's better, but in reality, Messi's natural talent has always triumphed Ronaldo's, and though the Real Madrid star may have the looks and confidence, Messi is more down-to-earth and humble, and has always preferred to do his talking on the pitch, which has seen him win a 5 Ballon d'Or titles, tying him with Cristiano Ronaldo.

24. Anthony Joshua 

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Anthony Joshua was a teenage tearaway and even spent a brief period behind bars before he took up boxing at 18, a sport he is likely to dominate for years to come following his 11th round knockout of the legendary Ukrainian heavyweight fighter, Wladimir Klitschko. 

But even before the fight took place, Joshua had nothing but praise for his opponent, and it's this image of Joshua that the media and his fans have fallen in love with, especially after he admitted to the press that he still lives at home with his mother. Not even a shock loss to Andy Ruiz Jr can take away our love for this champ! 

25. The US Women's Soccer Team

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Winning the FIFA women's world cup in Canada in 2015, the US team are battling for equal pay in their sport back home. Arguably the best soccer team in the women's game, they have been far more successful than their male counterparts and really want to hammer home that they deserve what they're fighting for.

Just this week, in fact, they trounced a sorry Thailand 13-0. Despite this awesome feat, male commentators criticised them for 'over-celebrating' when the scoreline reached double digits. Dear oh dear.

26. Oksana Chusovitina

Shutterstock/Alex Bogatyrev

It is highly telling of the competition and vitality of youth in a sport when a 22-year old is affectionately called 'Grandma' when competing as is the case with American gymnast Aly Raisman.

Imagine how incredible this vaulter from Uzbekistan is then when you find out she is 41.

27. Kerri Walsh Jennings

Shutterstock/ Mai Groves

A beach volleyball star who has won gold three times with partner Misty May-Treanor but when Misty retired Kerri was faced with the ultimatum of doing the same or finding another partner. The American decided on the latter and is now competing with April Ross with her sights set firmly on a fourth gold.

Despite her own domination of the sport, this time around the Brazilian pairing of Talita Antunes and Larissa França are firm favorites for the top spot and it would be considered an upset should Jennings succeed yet again.

28. Yolande Mabika

IOC Newsroom

Separated from her parents during the second Congo war, Yolande was sent to an orphanage in the capital where she was taught judo in order to encourage structure in her life.

She would later seek asylum in Brazil as fighting intensified and this is where she currently trains and will compete in the 70kg Judo competition.

29. Dara Torres

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If Michael Phelps is the king of the pool, then Dara Torres can surely make a case for being its queen. As well qualifying and then competing in five Olympic games (1984, 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2008), she's also collected medals in all five of them.

Being one of only two Americans to achieve such a feat- the other being the skeet shooter Kim Rhode- Torres' current Olympic medal collection stands at 12 and is also a former world record holder in three events. 

30. Rafael Nadal

Shutterstock/ Christian Bertrand

The second tennis player on our list, the Spanish tennis ace Rafael Nadal has won 18 grand slams in his career, which in any other decade, would likely see him heralded as the best player of all time. But a player by the name of Roger Federer is currently 2 ahead of him, despite the Spaniard boasting a superior head-to-head record. Nonetheless, Nadal's achievements are equally as impressive, especially on the clay surface, where he has won an astonishing 11 French Open titles (more than any other player). 

But just like Federer, Rafa's nice guy persona and clear-to-see humbleness have further elevated his legendary status, with the star even admitting that he never expected to win a slam when starting his journey on tour. 

By the age of 30, Nadal thought he would have retired from the sport and returned to his home island of Majorca and live out the rest of his days fishing with his family and friends.

31. Popole Misenga 

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Competing in the 90kg judo event Popole is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, but during the second Congo war, he saw his mother killed before fleeing into the rainforests of the country in order to survive himself. Gaining asylum in Brazil, he trained in Judo, showing an uncontrolled aggressiveness that put other athletes on edge.

His time at the training facility has taught him to control his aggression and once the other athletes learned of his story, they became more understanding.

32. Ren Qian

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An 18-year-old diving sensation from China, Ren Qian is no stranger to the pressure of performing on the big stage and even scored a perfect 10 at 2016's FINA World Cup.

Taking home gold in the 10-meter diving platform at the Rio Olympic, the teenage sensation has already set the world ablaze. 

33. Rodrigo Koxa

The Inertia

A report from MailOnline wrote that the Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa caught the 80ft wave off the coast of Nazaré in Portugal on 8 November 2017, but the record wasn't confirmed until the World Surf League's Big Wave Awards eventually awarded him the accolade in California.

The World Surf League said in a statement. "The award goes to the surfer who, by any means available, catches the biggest wave of the year. Not only did Koxa win this year's honour, but he now holds the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave surfed."

Koxa described winning the award as 'the best day of my life'.

34. Ryan Hall
Shutterstock/John Kropewnicki

Ryan Hall's face may not be as famous as Michael Jordan's, but there's a good chance his name will ring a bell. Yes, Hall is that blonde-haired guy who wins pretty much every marathon and half marathon he enters. He even holds the American male record for a half-marathon, crossing the line in an impressive 59 minutes and 43 seconds.

This achievement made him the first runner to surpass the one-hour mark for 13.1 miles.

35. Michael Schumacher

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Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton may now dominate the Formula 1 circuit but least we forget the genius of Michael Schumacher. A 7-time World Champion with Renault and Ferrari, the German became the sport's first prolific winner and remains the most decorated driver in the sport with his record-breaking 7 championships.

Sadly, the German maestro remains in intensive care following a near-fatal skiing accident in 2013. 

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